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Mitochondria Initiate and Regulate Sarcopenia

Alway, Stephen E.; Mohamed, Junaith S.; Myers, Matthew J.

Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: April 2017 - Volume 45 - Issue 2 - p 58–69
doi: 10.1249/JES.0000000000000101
Perspectives for Progress

We present the hypothesis that an accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria initiates a signaling cascade leading to motor neuron and muscle fiber death and culminating in sarcopenia. Interactions between neural and muscle cells that contain dysfunctional mitochondria exacerbate sarcopenia. Preventing sarcopenia will require identifying mitochondrial sources of dysfunction that are reversible.

Sarcopenia is characterized by fiber atrophy and loss of fibers. Mitochondria health determines death signaling leading to localized protein loss and, if unchecked, widespread loss of muscle fibers.

1Division of Exercise Physiology; 2Center for Cardiovascular and Respiratory Sciences, and Mitochondria, Metabolism, and Bioenergetics; and 3Centers for Neuroscience, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, WV

Address for correspondence: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., Division of Exercise Physiology, West Virginia University School of Medicine, 1 Medical Center Dr, Morgantown, PO 9227, WV 26506 (E-mail:

Accepted for publication: November 23, 2016.

Editor: Roger M. Enoka, Ph.D.

© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine